The Scottish Government has announced its intention to reduce working time through trialling a shorter working week. 

Stating that it is still in the early stages of design, a spokesperson for the Scottish Government said that this £10 million pilot scheme of a four-day working week could help companies explore the benefits and costs linked to this.

In particular, this has been spurred on by the pandemic and the influx of flexible working practices which have come about as a result of this.

A new report by IPPR Scotland shows that a shift to a four-day working week with no loss of pay is overwhelmingly popular, particularly among those who are office workers and people who undertake customer facing work with 83 per cent overall supporting this.

In addition, over four in five (85 per cent) believe this would also have a positive effect on their wellbeing, preventing burnout and offering more time for relaxation.

According to two-thirds of working-age people in Scotland, productivity would also see an uplift through this move.

The report states that it is unclear, however, how this will actually operate across different types of workplaces.

The research utilises Iceland as a point of comparison which also conducted its own trials of a four-day working week in 2015 and 2017. Aiming to reduce the working week by a day, the studies showed increased or sustained productivity, greater wellbeing, improved work-life balance and lower rates of stress.

In this case, there are suggestions a shorter working week could support gender parity through alleviating the gap between paid and unpaid, domestic labour. The move to a four day working week, the report argues, could offer the opportunity to re-balance the distribution of unpaid work.

In addition, carbon emissions could be reduced through this initiative as alternative ways of organising work are thought up, allowing companies to move away from daily commutes to physical workplaces.

In order to build upon this, IPPR Scotland has urged the Scottish Government to extend their pilot to span across a range of sectors including non-office workplaces, shift-workers and settings such as social care, the NHS and hospitality.

It has also called for the creation of a new Working Time Commission which would be responsible for making recommendations on fair work on a sector-by-sector basis.

Rachel Statham, a senior research fellow at IPPR Scotland, stated:

The Scottish Government is right to be trialling a four-day working week because today’s evidence shows that it is a policy with overwhelming public support, and could be a positive step towards building an economy hardwired for wellbeing.

But any successful transition post-Covid-19 must include all kinds of workplaces, and all types of work. The full-time, nine-to-five office job is not how many people across Scotland work – and shorter working time trials need to reflect that reality.

So we must examine what shorter working time looks like from the perspective of shift workers, those working excessive hours to make ends meet, or those who currently have fewer hours than they would like to have.


*These findings have been documented in IPPR Scotland’s report ‘Changing times: The future of working time in Scotland’.